I've spent the last week in-and-out of a user-group conference for users of the defacto publishing solution for print media. Users of this particularly complext software get together to discuss all kinds of issues facing their organizations. Their challenges, solutions and culture are explored in an effort to openly find ways to do things better. It is apparent that every news organization is aware of the downward trend of dead-tree news. The general concensus is that online publications are the future, though some still disagree with the notion. What could be agreed upon though was that these media organizations are all becoming more multifaceted. Unfortunately the reality is that the web was 10 years ago, and those just getting to the station will find that the train has left. No longer can you simply build a news portal that looks like every other news portal. You must deliver value to your community and you must do so in an innovative way. The diversification of products has to continue, but with less staff and more content.

How does an organization accomplish this? I think it has to be done programatically and culturally. The applications each organization chooses must be flexible enough to change quickly and to follow trends as they happen. I saw some software during this conference that provided some of this functionality, and it looked very good. Obviosuly just a few days is not enough to make a judgement on anything so complex but I can at least agree with the direction they were going. Moving content out to a community to the extent that the community chooses what is important, generates discussion and organizes events. Part of the problem with traditional print media is that once you've read it, the news has already happened. This is why community contributions are so important, they should be accepted frequently provided they are of good quality.

This community generated content should be enriched by content generated by the news gathering organization and vice-versa. This strategy should not negate the importance of professional news gathering and editorial content. It is that content which should spark the community into generating more usable content. To the pubishers of such content, more content means more advertising space, more advertising space means more dollars.

Additionally, there are efficiences gained by having a bloggers participate in the core community. Imagine a blogger whose highly targeted content related to a particular city was enriched automatically by the local news gathering organization. The idea is that you can sponsor these bloggers with small fees and gain link traffic which the blogger is obligated to embed in their content. The blogger is going to blog whether your organization is part of the operation or not, so why not take advantage. The bloggers content can also be shared or syndicated for the news organization. I would not expect this content to be of high value for news purposes but for the purpose of additional content on a website it fits in my model.

This is a very small sampling of ideas that I had simply because I attended this conference. In my opinion that makes the experience I had worth my time. I'm glad I attended.